The Open Window by Saki

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(Short Stories for Students)

Framton Nuttel's sister
Framton Nuttel's sister once spent time in the same town to which Framton has come for relaxation. She has given him a number of letters of introduction with which he is to make himself known to a number of people in the town. Mrs. Sappleton is the recipient of such a letter, and it is this that brings Nuttel to her home.

Mr. Framton Nuttel
Mr. Framton Nuttel suffers from an undisclosed nervous ailment and comes to the country in hope that its atmosphere will be conducive to a cure. He brings a letter of introduction to Mrs. Sappleton in order to make her acquaintance for his stay in her village. While he waits for Mrs. Sappleton to appear, her niece keeps him company and tells him a story about why a window in the Toom has been left open. He believes her story, that the window remains open in hopes that Mrs. Sappleton's husband and brother, who the niece says are long dead, will one day return. Later, when Nuttel looks out the window and sees figures approaching who match the descriptions of the long-dead hunters in the niece's story, he suffers a mental breakdown and flees the house.

Ronnie is Mrs. Sappleton's younger brother, who, with Mr. Sappleton, has been away on a hunting expedition.

Mr. Sappleton
Mr. Sappleton is Mrs. Sappleton's husband. He has been away during most of the story on a hunting expedition with Mrs. Sappleton's younger brother, Ronnie.

Mrs. Sappleton
Readers are first led to believe that Mrs. Sappleton is a widow, keeping vigil for her departed husband and brother, who have disappeared during a hunting trip. She lives with her young niece.

Vera is the niece of Mrs. Sappleton, the woman to whom Framton Nuttel plans to give a letter of introduction. She is a teller of tales, a young woman whose forte is ''romance at short notice.'' She is an exquisite and intuitive actress, equally skilled at deceit and its concealment. While Nuttel waits with her for Mrs. Sappleton to appear, Vera relates an elaborate story surrounding a window in the room that has been left open. It is this story, of the death of some relatives who went hunting long ago, that eventually causes Framton Nuttel's breakdown. She tells Nuttel that the window is left open as a sign of her aunt's hope that the dead hunters will one day come home and provides a detailed description of the men, their behavior and attire. After Nuttel flees upon seeing these men return, just as Vera has described them, Vera invents a story explaining his departure as well. Saki refers to Vera as "self-possessed,'' which literally means that she has self-control and poise. In the context of this story, it is clear that this is the quality that allows her to lie so well—Vera's self-possession allows her to maintain a cool head and calm believability while relating the most outlandish of tales.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Though it is a remarkably short piece of fiction, "The Open Window" explores a number of important themes, including the difference between appearances and reality. It is no surprise that Mrs. Sappleton's niece tells a story that is easy to believe. She begins with an object in plain view, an open window, and proceeds from there. The window is obviously open, but as for why it is open, the reader is completely at the mercy of Mrs. Sappleton's niece's explanation, at least while she tells her story. The open window becomes a symbol within this story-within-a-story, and its appearance becomes its reality. When Mr. Nuttel—and the reader— are presented with a contrary reality at the end of the story, the result is a tension between appearance and reality that needs to be resolved. Which is real? Can they both be real?

Deception provides another key theme in the story. The action and irony of the story revolve around the apparent deception practiced by Mrs. Sappleton's niece. It remains to be seen, however, whether this deception is a harmless...

(The entire section is 1,087 words.)